10 Things to Look for When Buying a House

Buying a house is a bit like planning for your wedding day — there  are months packed with excitement, stress, planning, and then, finally,  the big payoff. I know because I have 2 exceedingly interesting sisters  (a hummus-making social worker and a gluten-free marketing maven) who  both committed to the big stuff — husbands and houses — within the last 2  years.

Although I can’t help you with happily-ever-after, I can share the  insight I gained while helping my sisters on their journeys to  homeownership. Here are 10 things to watch for when buying a house.

1. Recognize a roof in need of repair

Before you ever set foot inside, check out what’s happening on top.  Does the roof look relatively new or is it caving in? If the roof is  eye-catching (as in, “My, look at that gaping hole”), chances are it  could end up costing you.

A newer roof, on the other hand, could mean a lower homeowners  insurance rate. Likewise, a roof made of an especially sturdy material  is better equipped to defend against wind and hail (and can save you  from a potential claim).

2. Don’t judge a room by its paint job

When you step inside your prospective abode, focus on the structural  stuff — aging appliances, loose wires — and tune out any freshly painted  walls or upscale decor. The foundation will be there long after the  paint has started chipping and you want that to be what lasts.

3. Take its temperature

When you’re buying a house, keep in mind: if it looks rickety or old,  it probably is. Heating and cooling systems are expensive to fix and  replace, and inefficient ones can eat away at your utility bills. Make  sure the furnace is up to date and in good repair.

4. Decide on your dealbreakers

Aside from the basics, like quality windows and countertops, think  about the purpose of your home and the requirements for your lifestyle,  like storage for a large book collection or a big backyard for  barbecuing.

It can also be smart to spring for a home with an extra bedroom if  you’re planning on kids or guests. And if your significant other is a  night owl while you’re a connoisseur of cat naps, it might be a good  idea to look for a house with an entertainment area set far away from  the master bedroom.

5. Plumbing: what lies beneath

When you’re poking around a new kitchen, don’t stop at eye level —  get underneath the sink and examine those pipes. Check for leaks, water  damage, and mold.

Not only is mold unsightly and foul-smelling, but it can also cause  health problems. If you live with a baby, an elderly person, or someone  with asthma, you’ll want to be especially careful before moving in with  mold.

6. Check out the land beforehand

Don’t just look at the building — examine the area around it. Is the house in an area prone to flooding or wildfires?  Is the driveway shared with another property? If there are fences, have  they been built and positioned properly? It’s a lot to take in, but  when you buy a house, you can’t ignore its surroundings.

7. Smell the roses (and more)

Do you smell sewage, gas, or anything equally unpleasant? Sewage  systems in older homes can sometimes get clogged or damaged by tree  roots. Luckily, some sewer or plumbing companies can send a camera  through the pipes to detect any breaks or blockages.

Also worth noting: pet odors, cigarettes, and mildew.

8. Invest in a well-insulated house

Above all else, your home should be comfortable. Check the attic,  water pipes, and heating ducts to make sure they’re properly insulated.  This can reduce heating and cooling costs and keep you comfortable in  summer and winter. Double-paned windows can also save you money down the  road. Plus, they can help soundproof your place from outside noise.

9. Get your hands on everything

I mean that literally. Turn on every faucet and light switch, open  every window and door, flush the toilets, even taste the water. Buying a  house is a big step — maybe one of the biggest — and you need to know  how everything works firsthand. That way, you can address problem areas  and see if there’s a cost-effective solution.

10. Have a home inspection done

There’s only so much you can do with your own 5 senses. You’ll also  want to enlist a professional to ensure the foundation is solid and the  wiring is up to code. Home inspectors can even check for lead paint and  wood-eating pests.

The National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents suggests that  almost every house has a defect. Some will be obvious to you, and the  vast majority will be fixable, but it’s best to know before you buy. Not  only will that help you negotiate a lower price, but it can also  prepare you for any necessary repair costs that may arise.

This article originally appeared on esurance.com

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